Republican Education Funding

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Senate President Andy Biggs will explain the plan by Republican legislative leaders to increase funding for education in Arizona.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," republican and democratic legislative leaders discuss their separate plans for funding education. And we'll hear about the impact of principals and other administrators on school graduation rates. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Good evening, on welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The state board of education has filed suit against superintendent of public instruction, Diane Douglas for not fulfilling her duties. This suit claims that Douglas is not allowing the board remote access to a web site that's needed to investigate teacher misconduct. The board is also claiming that Douglas's office refuses to take down the board's old web site and refuses to redirect traffic to the board's new web site. No comment as yet from Douglas or anyone else at the Department of Education. All sorts of plans and ideas are being proposed to better fund education in Arizona. Tonight we hear the latest proposals from both republican and democratic legislative leaders. First off, we welcome Senate president Andy Biggs. Good to see you again. Thanks for being here.

ANDY BIGGS: Good to see you. Thanks for having me.

TED SIMONS: Give us a 30,000 feet view of the republican plan.

ANDY BIGGS: Legislative leadership plan includes really four pillars. Number one would be adoption essentially of the governor's state trust land proposal. And that would generate probably 175 to $200 million per year. His plan was for 10 years and we would take it for 10 years. We could go longer, depending on what people wanted to do. We would include the $74 million a year plus an inflation rate on that, plus an additional $100 million a year, plus an inflation rate on that, and then we would also add the opportunity for the voters to repurpose some, not all, some money in first thing first, for early childhood development. Significant number of funds every year that goes unused, we could repurpose that for K-12. The total -- The largest funding packages of all packages out there, exceeds $500 million a year for 10 years, the only part limited at all would be the state trust land. The rest would be essentially in perpetuity according to what the voters wanted.

TED SIMONS: As far as the trust land, we will start with that, critics say it undercuts the fund some Republics say it undercuts the funds. Valid?

ANDY BIGGS: It is a great question. I'm not sure that it is valid. You can do a number of things that would protect that fund. Redesign technically what would be the balance. So you would pick for instance July 1st, 2016, that is when you would want to do the new distribution, and whatever's in there, somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.4 billion, and you would say you can't dig into that at all. So, that's protected. But the growth fund that gets added in, you could put kind of a quasi-rainy day fund on that so that when you exceed the amount necessary to make your distribution, it goes into that fund, so if you ever drop below, it would fill the cup back up.

TED SIMONS: You also mentioned inflation adjustments. It sounds like you want to ask voters to cut that down to 1.6%. Why should voters okay this when past voter mandates on inflation adjustments haven't been met?

ANDY BIGGS: Well, actually, I would disagree with you, Ted. They actually were met. The voters said either base it on a baseline of base support level or, and the key thing, it says the word or on your transportation support level. We met some years -- some years we have enough money to pay both. Some years we only have enough to pay one. So the voters actually did, you're correct, they said what to do, and they said make the choice legislature by your economic conditions.

TED SIMONS: We have a judge that thinks otherwise.

ANDY BIGGS: You have one judge that thinks otherwise. No one mentions this, originally we had one judge that ruled in our favor and said that the state did everything correctly in interpreting what the voters wanted. The reason that you would want to go to 1.6 is, for instance, right now, 2.2% is capped. That's the cap. Ours would be a hard number of 1.6. So in a year like this, which the inflation rate is going to be calculated about 1.1%, you would actually benefit K-12 in that instance.

TED SIMONS: You think voters are going to go along with this, especially after the controversy we are having with the inflation adjustment suit.

ANDY BIGGS: You know what's interesting, I don't know what voters will do, okay. I think when voters hear it explained in certain ways -- let me give you an example. This is like going out to dinner. You spend $100 for dinner and throw $15 on for the tip because that is a 15% tip and you think that is fine. Next month, when you go out to the restaurant, you have to pay the same $100 that you did the month before. So now you have $200. You pay that same $15 tip, and then you have to calculate the 15% on that. By the time you get through a year with it compounding like that, you are about $1,800 for the same meal. That is what the 2% inflation issue is right now, under 1590101 which the voters approved and locked us into and in about 10 years from now, you are looking at the same $100 dinner costing you $1,800.

TED SIMONS: Speaking of dinner you have called the democrat's plan quote not worth the napkin it was written on. Why did you say that?

ANDY BIGGS: Because I think it needs to call attention to a very simple approach to something is that is very complex and it doesn't even look thought out. They don't address the lawsuit, which we are trying to address with our proposal. They don't address the 2% inflation factor which we are trying to address. It is not what I would call a very well thought out plan. That's the complaint.

TED SIMONS: Will you consider aspects of their plan?

ANDY BIGGS: Yeah, I mean, I've already looked at -- I have read their plan and I think it is intriguing, but they want to take effectively every dime that you get in new money for the next 10 years and tell every other department or agency in the state that you are not going to get an increase. They don't make any provision or any idea of what happens should you have a 2008 or even back to 2003, 2004, where you had a drop. I mean, I get it. I mean, it is real easy. That's my point. It is easy to say yeah, just give them everything.

TED SIMONS: Speaking of which, superintendent of public instruction, thinks $400 million should go to schools right away from the surplus and from the rainy day fund. Thoughts?

ANDY BIGGS: This is coming from somebody who doesn't have to do the budget, doesn't deal with the hard facts of the numbers that we deal with, and frankly her role as superintendent is not as a policy maker. It is basically to implement policy directives from the legislature as well as from the state board of education.

TED SIMONS: Last question. It seems as though a special session is looming. Are we going to see something coming up in October maybe?

ANDY BIGGS: My crystal ball doesn't tell me when you will see it. I do know there is a sense of urgency between us, the governor's office. We continue to work with the plaintiffs on this issue. I mean, I would imagine you are going to get a special session at some point. I just can't tell you when.

TED SIMONS: You do believe the inflation adjustment suit will be ended soon or is that thing pretty much on a shelf right now?

ANDY BIGGS: Like I say, we're hoping to -- we're actually engaged and seeing if we can try to move the ball forward. It is a tough issue. It's complicated. But we're doing the best we can to see if we can resolve these issues.

TED SIMONS: Do you have separate plan B's in case voters say no to some of these ideas?

ANDY BIGGS: Yeah, you are going to have to face up to some facts. I think the voters will probably approve the state trust land deal. And then we're talking about what happens with the general fund components. We're committed, I think most of my members are, to trying to forward that. That you don't even necessarily need to go to the voters. First things first. Go to the voters, I think they would be interested to see if it we can get the message out. Critical point do they get the message out and understand what is going on.

TED SIMONS: Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

ANDY BIGGS: Thanks for having me.

Andy Biggs: Arizona Senate President

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